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What is Food Insecurity?What is Food Insecurity? Food insecurity occurs when a person is consistently unable to get enough food on a day-to-day basis. This epidemic plagues millions across the globe, resulting in malnutrition, chronic hunger and low quality of health. When a person lives with hunger or fear of going hungry, they are considered to be food insecure. It is important to understand why food insecurity happens and what can be done to alleviate it.

What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity can be broken down into three aspects. The first is food availability, which means having physical access to a food supply on a consistent basis. The second is food access, which means that a person has the resources, such as money, available to obtain and sufficient amount of food. The third is food utilization, which addresses how a person consumes food and whether or not they use the food available to maintain a nutritious diet. It is important to note that proper sanitation and hygiene practices also contribute to food utilization.

On average, more than 9 million people a year die from global food insecurity. Unfortunately, poverty and food insecurity have long gone hand-in-hand because people living in poverty are less likely to have sufficient resources to buy food or produce their own. Families without the resources to escape extreme poverty are likely unable to escape chronic hunger as well. There are several factors contributing to the large number of people who are food insecure.

  1. The steady growth in human population contributes greatly to the increase in food insecurity. With more people on Earth comes more mouths to feed. The rate in which food is grown simply isn’t able to keep up with the projected population growth.
  2. Another contributing cause of food insecurity is the global water crisis. “Widespread over-pumping and irrigation” are leading to a depletion of water sources needed to produce agriculture and produce. Water reserves in many countries have dropped drastically, directly impacting food supplies in these countries and others.
  3. Recent climate extremes and natural disasters also affect food supplies, ruining communities and the agriculture within them. Climate change has impacted crops, forests and water supplies, ultimately spiking prices in areas that are already affected.

The Impact of Food Insecurity

Food insecurity impacts individuals, families and communities far and wide. Although the number of people living with hunger has dropped since the 20th century, there are still more than 800 million people in the world without food security. In developing countries, nearly one in six children is malnourished and poor nutrition accounts for almost half of deaths in children under five. While Asia has the highest population of food insecure people, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence with 25 percent of the population living in hunger.

Food insecurity can lead to many health problems if a person is not getting the nutrients they need. Malnutrition is an issue that can affect all aspects of one’s health. While food insecurity directly impacts all these people, it indirectly impacts the whole population. The problem of food insecurity is a product of behaviors that people do every day, and it has the ability to affect people who may not even know it.

Combatting Food Insecurity

Despite a large number of impending causes, there are still actions that can be taken in daily life to contribute to combating food insecurity. Urging the government to make nutrition programs that emphasize nutrition as a priority is one way to help in the fight. Even if someone is not exposed to food insecurity in their personal life, they can still put pressure on the government to make policies that could help people in developing countries fight this epidemic.

There are also a number of programs and nonprofit organizations that rely on donations and aid in order to make a big difference. The World Food Programme and World Health Organization are two examples of charities that devote time and resources to combating malnutrition and hunger. Donating food to a local food bank or volunteering at one are more hands-on ways to make a difference. Of course, an emphasis on foreign aid and public policy are two of the most impactful ways to reach the most people in the shortest amount of time.

While the numbers may seem staggering, there has been a 17 percent decrease in global food insecurity since the 1990s, but with awareness and effort, that number could be improved. There is reason to believe that, given the right tools and commitment, global food insecurity could become a more manageable problem in years to come.

Charlotte M. Kriftcher

Photo: Pixabay

World Hunger's Causes and Effects
The causes of world hunger are directly related to those of poverty. Close to 795 million, or one in nine, people living in the world today do not have enough food. Ending world hunger requires an understanding of the causes and effects.

  1. War causes communities which are dealing with crumbling infrastructure, violence and fleeing refugees to be largely unable to maintain stable food systems. Declining income levels during times of war significantly impacts the supply of food and food security.
  2. Agricultural practices such as deforestation, over-grazing and over cropping combined with drought and the effects of soil erosion can often destroy farm and grazing land.
  3. Climate change is a huge factor in causing world hunger as it has been increasing the number of droughts, floods and tropical storms. These often unexpected, rapid natural disasters destroy the small plots of land that farmers count on for their food and livelihood.
  4. As the global population continues to increase, especially in developing countries, the demand for food will invariably continue to rise as well. As food prices rise, it is becoming harder and harder for developing countries to match production rates with the population growth rates.

Poverty and hunger more often than not go hand in hand. Poor people just do not have the resources such as tools, money, land and even physical energy  to combat hunger.

World hunger itself causes roughly 146 million children to be underweight while one in three children in a developing country have their growth stunted. Approximately 66 million primary school age children go hungry every day and between 2 to 3.5 billion people have micronutrient deficiencies. Over nine million people die worldwide from hunger and malnutrition. Five million of those people are children.

In the world right now there is enough food to feed every human being on the planet. Yet according to globalissues.org, concernusa.org and many other organizations and sources, a shocking amount of food is wasted in first-world countries and even in third-world countries.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: Concern USA, Freedom from Hunger, WFP, Global Issues
Photo: Flickr

reproductive rights
Iranian officials are taking steps to restrict access to birth control options in Iran, in hopes of increasing fertility rates and population growth.

Last week, Iranian lawmakers ratified a bill which would ban birth control surgeries and criminalize any act to reduce fertility. According to the bill, every individual who performs a vasectomy or tubectomy or engages in sterilization could face up to five years of imprisonment. This new bill indicates a dramatic shift from progressive population policies previously implemented in Iran.

In the late 1980s, Iran launched a national family planning project, as the country was faced with one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. The baby boom was a result of Iranian authorities’ demand for more soldiers in the 1979 Revolution.

By introducing birth control policies, Iran succeeded in reducing the uncontrolled population growth from its peak of 3.2 percent in the 1980s to a current low of 1.22 percent. The policies have also allowed Iranian women to make significant strides, as women now comprise 60 percent of college students, and socioeconomic trends show that most women choose to develop careers rather than starting families.

However, Iranian officials have recently begun to worry about the low birthrates and the projection of the country’s population in the coming decades. In 2012, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a 14-point decree that promoted population growth to 150 million or more. He established a goal of increasing the population by 76 million, claiming in his decree that attaining this goal would “strengthen national identity.”

In response, Mahmoud Almadinejad’s conservative government eliminated the population and birth control budgets of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. The government even legally agreed to pay Iranian families for every new child produced. This is quite a significant turnaround from the “Fewer Kids, Better Life” motto widely promoted in the 1980s.

Furthermore, a new set of policies were established by the Expediency Council to advance Khamenei’s goal. These policy reforms include encouraging youth to marry at a younger age, financially supporting young couples, providing mothers with special resources, ensuring the health and proper nutrition of the people and reducing population pressures.

The objective of these conventions is not only to increase population, but also to balance the country’s challenging demographic profile, which foresees an older population, in the future.

The new population regulations will particularly target Iranian women, threatening the legal rights they have obtained in the past few decades. Female Iranian activists regard the new policy reforms as a method to curtail women’s economic, political and financial roles, and restrain them to their houses.

For women in the rural working class, the elimination of reproductive services, including free contraception and health care, will leave them with more children to support and no education or share of job markets. According to the Statistical Centre of Iran, women only make up 12.4 percent of Iran’s work force and, with these new policies, this figure will only drop.

These recently employed policies, in addition to the pending bill that involves punishments and restrictions, denotes a complete reversal of women’s reproductive rights in Iran.

– Abby Bauer

Sources: Global Post, Al Monitor, Huffington Post
Photo: National Geographic